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Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer

There are five main types of cancer that affect a womans reproductive
organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. As a group, they are
referred to as gynecologic (GY-neh-kuh-LAH-jik) cancer. (A sixth type of
gynecologic cancer is the very rare fallopian tube cancer.)

This fact sheet about ovarian cancer is part of the Centers for Disease Control
and Preventions (CDC) Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic
Cancer campaign. The campaign helps women get the facts about gynecologic
cancer, providing important inside knowledge about their bodies and health.

What is ovarian cancer? However, the following factors

may increase a womans risk for
Cancer is a disease in which cells
ovarian cancer: Who gets ovarian cancer?
in the body grow out of control.
Cancer is always named for the part Being middle-aged or older. All women are at risk for ovarian
of the body where it starts, even if it cancer, but older women are
Having close family members
spreads to other body parts later.
(such as your mother, sister, aunt, more likely to get the disease
When cancer starts in the ovaries, or grandmother) on either your
than younger women. About
it is called ovarian cancer. Women mothers or your fathers side
have two ovaries that are located in 90 percent of women who get
who have had ovarian cancer.
the pelvis, one on each side of the ovarian cancer are older than
uterus. The ovaries make female Having had breast, uterine, or
colorectal cancer. 40, with the greatest number
hormones and produce eggs.
of ovarian cancers occurring in
When ovarian cancer is found Having an Eastern European
(Ashkenazi) Jewish background. women aged 60 years or older.
in its early stages, treatment is
most effective. Having never given birth or having Each year, approximately 21,000
had trouble getting pregnant. women in the United States get
What raises a womans chance Having endometriosis (a ovarian cancer. Among women in
of getting ovarian cancer? condition where tissue from
the United States, ovarian cancer
There is no way to know for sure if the lining of the uterus grows
you will get ovarian cancer. Most elsewhere in the body). is the eighth most common cancer
women who get it dont have a and the fifth leading cause of
If you have one or more of these
family history of ovarian cancer. cancer death.
factors, it does not mean you will
get ovarian cancer. But you should
speak with your doctor or other
health professional about your risk.

Inside Knowledge is an initiative

Fallopian Tubes
that supports the Gynecologic
Cancer Education and Awareness
Act of 2005, or Johannas Law,
Vagina which was unanimously passed

Vulva by the U.S. House and Senate in

December of 2006, and signed 800-CDC-INFO into law in January 2007.
How can I prevent ovarian However, here are steps you can take:
cancer? Pay attention to your body, and
What are the signs and
There is no known way to prevent know what is normal for you.
symptoms of ovarian cancer?
ovarian cancer. But these things If you notice any changes in
Ovarian cancer may cause one may lower your chance of getting your body that are not normal
or more of these signs and ovarian cancer: for you and could be a sign
symptoms: Having used birth control pills of ovarian cancer, talk to your
for more than five years. doctor and ask about possible
Vaginal bleeding (particularly
causes, such as ovarian cancer.
if you are past menopause) or Having given birth.
discharge from your vagina that Ask your doctor if you
Having had a tubal ligation should have a test, such as a
is not normal for you. (getting your tubes tied), rectovaginal pelvic exam, a
Pain or pressure in the pelvic or both ovaries removed, or transvaginal ultrasound, or a
abdominal area (the area below hysterectomy (an operation CA-125 blood test if:
your stomach and in between in which the uterus, and
sometimes the cervix, is You have any unexplained signs
your hip bones).
removed). or symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Back pain. These tests sometimes help
Breastfeeding. Some studies find or rule out ovarian cancer.
Bloating, which is when the suggest that women who
area below your stomach swells breastfeed for a year or more You have had breast, uterine,
or feels full. may have a modestly reduced or colorectal cancer; or a close
risk of ovarian cancer. relative has had ovarian cancer.
Feeling full too quickly or
difficulty eating.
Are there tests that can What should I do if my doctor
A change in your bathroom says I have ovarian cancer?
find ovarian cancer early?
habits, such as more frequent
There is no simple and reliable If your doctor says that you have
or urgent need to urinate and/
way to test for ovarian cancer in ovarian cancer, ask to be referred
or constipation. to a gynecologic oncologista
women who do not have any signs
Pay attention to your body, and or symptoms. The Pap test does doctor who has been trained to
know what is normal for you. not screen for ovarian cancer. treat cancers like this. This doctor
If you have vaginal bleeding The only cancer the Pap test will work with you to create a
that is not normal for you, see screens for is cervical cancer. treatment plan.
a doctor right away. If you have
any of the other signs for two
weeks or longer, see a doctor.
These symptoms may be caused
Where can I find more
by something other than cancer,
information about ovarian and
but the only way to know is to see
other gynecologic cancers?
your doctor. Treatment is most
effective when ovarian cancer is Centers for Disease Control and
found and treated early. Prevention: 800-CDC-INFO or
National Cancer Institute:
800-4-CANCER or
Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer
CDC Publication #99-9124, Revised September 2016